Monday, 16 October 2017

Impact Areas



What is Vital Signs?

Vital Signs is a report that gathers good quality data from reputable sources about a city to provide a snapshot of the vital signs of its community.  Vital Signs identifies things to celebrate and things to improve.

The first Vital Signs report was produced by the Toronto Community Foundation in 2006 and was so well received that it led to the Vital Signs project being undertaken by more than 30 community foundations across Canada, led by Community Foundations of Canada.

I first saw Toronto’s 2006 Vital Signs through my earlier advisory work supporting community foundations around Australia. I was hugely impressed and could see the value of an independent set of data to check a community’s health and wellbeing.  When I was appointed CEO of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, essentially Melbourne’s own community foundation, producing Vital Signs was a potential opportunity. Our first Melbourne Vital Signs was produced in 2014 with academic research and advice from Community Indicators Victoria at The University of Melbourne.

The 2017 Vital Signs report is our second report and has involved a wider group of academic advisors from The University of Melbourne (Transforming Housing, Victorian Eco Innovation Lab), Victoria University (Mitchell Institute) and Monash University (Climate Works) together with additional research and data analysis undertaken by two of our team, Dan Pediaditis and Kelly Sparke. The Advisory Committee is listed on the back cover of the full report and we are very appreciative of the Committee’s advice and commitment. A full list of research sources is included in the Endnotes on page 28 – 30 of the report, with 97 references are listed.  These include data from the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s 2016 Census, Victorian Population Health Survey 2015, other Federal and State Government Department research reports, Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and others.

Many foundations around the world are increasingly using evidence to inform their granting and other programs.  Community foundations like Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, which are a hub for charitable giving and granting in a particular community, are focused on the key issues facing our communities and also on growing philanthropy. We sometimes bring diverse players together to a safe, independent space to think creatively about community challenges and new solutions. Community foundations provide grants for charitable purposes and often work collaboratively, using their knowledge and networks to help make a difference.  The Vital Signs report provides us with up to date data on which to base decisions about our own granting priorities. Most importantly, the reports are intended to assist other foundations, leaders of not-for-profit organisations and policy makers working on the various issues.

Our Greater Melbourne Vital Signs 2017 report is designed around some general population information about the greater Melbourne community and the Impact Areas around which the Foundation’s grants program is organised: Education & Employment; Healthy & Cohesive Communities; Homelessness & Affordable Housing; & Environment and Sustainability.

So what did we find in Greater Melbourne Vital Signs 2017?

What can we celebrate about our great city?

Overall, education is a strength: 95% of children in Victoria attend preschool1, 2; and 82% of young people finish Year 12 (compared with 55% 50 years ago)3.

87% of children are in good health4. 95% of residents participate in or attend arts and cultural events5.

What are the biggest challenges facing Melbourne?

Homelessness and the lack of supply of affordable housing remains a big challenge for Melbourne. Only 0.7% of private rental properties are suitable for a person living on income support payments6. The number of older women ‘couch surfing’ has increased 83% since 20127. More than half of people accessing homeless services are under 258. The median price of housing across Greater Melbourne has increased by 19% in the last five years9.

Despite much higher school completion than 50 years ago, youth unemployment is too high at 13.5 % of young people (aged 15-24 years). Only one third of graduates seeking full time employment were able to find a job within four months. Underemployment of young people is even more significant at 18%; the highest since records began10.

40% of our waterways are under stress11 and our foodbowl, which currently has a wonderful capacity to grow 82% of the city’s vegetables and 41% of our total food needs, needs to be protected and drought proofed despite our growing population12.

Another concern is the report that 1 in 5 people (20%) reported experiencing discrimination based on skin colour, ethnic origin or religion. This is an increase from up from 15% in 201513. This is particularly concerning given that 34% of our population was born outside Australia and nearly 1.5 million people speak a language other than English at home14.

Our greenhouse gas emissions are around four times the global average15, 16, 17, however rooftop solar is rapidly increasing – although we sit at 14% residential uptake compared with Queensland at 29%, WA 23.1% and SA at 28.8%18. We need to reduce our waste, which is increasing, although 44% is recycled or recovered19.


Which challenges should philanthropy be targeting?

Philanthropy sits in a unique place within the Melbourne community. Foundations can take a long- term view, outside of election and annual meeting cycles. We can support innovative responses, sometimes testing and proving new services and programs before government can fund them or a social enterprise model can become sustainable. Philanthropy can try to tackle the tough issues. Philanthropy can work in partnership with government and business and bring sectors together. Sometimes it makes most sense for government or business to take a lead.

Overall, we are a well-educated, arts oriented city. We are doing well conserving water and improving our air quality.

However, we must tackle the lack of affordable housing, reduce youth unemployment, protect our waterways and our food bowl, and actively support social inclusion. And more people need to be more active! Many of these challenges can be reduced if we take a proactive approach as a community, especially collaborating across sectors.

We will continue to work with our partners on:

  • Reducing homelessness and increasing the supply of more affordable housing. Young people and older people, especially women, need support.
  • Reducing youth unemployment in a changing world of work.
  • Reducing discrimination in a culturally diverse community. 
  • Ensuring a sustainable food bowl and healthy waterways.
  • Reducing our current level of waste.
  • Supporting our community to prepare for and recover from heatwaves and other natural disasters such as fires and droughts, especially those most at risk such as children and older people or those with limited financial resources.

Catherine Brown
Chief Executive Officer



  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, "4240.0 - Preschool Education, Australia," 8 March 2017. [Online]. Available:
  2. Department of Education and Training, "Kindergarten Participation Rate," July 2015. [Online]. Available:
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, "TableBuilder 2016 Census - Employment, Income and Education," 6 September 2017. [Online]. Available:
  4. Department of Education & Training, "Young People with Good Health," July 2015. [Online]. Available:
  5. Creative Victoria, "Arts in Daily Life," December 2014. [Online]. Available:
  6. Anglicare Australia, "Rental Affordability Snapshot," April 2017. [Online]. Available:
  7. Council to Homeless Persons, "Hidden Homelessness on the Rise," 7 August 2017. [Online]. Available:
  8. Council to Homeless Persons, "Homelessness in Victoria," 2012. [Online]. Available:
  9. CoreLogic, "Housing Affordability Report," December 2016. [Online]. Available:
  10. Australian Bureau of Statistics, "6202.0 Labour Force Australia," 14 September 2017. [Online]. Available:
  11. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, "Report Card 2015-2016," 4 May 2017. [Online]. Available:
  12. R. Carey, K. Larsen and J. Sheridan, "Melbourne's Food Future: Planning a Resilient City Foodbowl," 2016. [Online]. Available:
  13. A. Markus, "Mapping Social Cohesion: The Scanlon Foundation Surveys 2016," Monash University, Caufield, 2016
  14. Australian Bureau of Statistics, “Greater Melbourne,” 27 June 2017. [Online]. Available:
  15. Department of the Environment and Energy, "State and Territory Greenhouse Gas Inventories 2015," May 2017. [Online]. Available:
  16. Australian Bureau of Statistics, "3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2015," 17 December 2015. [Online]. Available:
  17. The World Bank, "World Development Indicators," 1 July 2017. [Online]. Available:
  18. Australian PV Institute, "Mapping Australian Photovoltaic Installations," 5 September 2017. [Online]. Available:
  19. Sustainability Victoria, “Victorian Local Government Annual Waste Services Report 2014-2015,” 2016. [Online]. Available:

Impact Areas